Thursday, April 30, 2015

Black Women Horror Bloggers: Rosemary's Pixie


The most crucial aspect of being a blogger is that your voice should shine through the topics you're discussing. Many take to task this venture. Here, horror is the anchor, but our identity as Black women is what keeps us afloat and even sail. I understood just how important that was with one blog essay from this year, "Oh Canada. A Woman Of Colour And Her Perspective On Horror In The Great White North". As a community, we're all fans of horror, but it's our perspectives from the subjective realm that makes our sentiments not only critical, but unique. An author should encourage, entertain, and inspire new ideas to take away. To bring to the table the angle less considered so the media we consume can evolve without losing what made us love it so much in the beginning.

Talking to the horror blogger and author of that essay felt like a step in the right direction to further explore a geographically removed horror community from my own from the voice of a Black woman.

With Trinidadian roots and a lifetime of Toronto hospitality, Carolyn Mauricette, affectionately known as Rosemary's Pixie has been doing her share of horror blogging for two and a half years now. Rosemary's Pixie, additionally standing as the blog's title, is a disciplined gumbo of genre television and film reviews, interviews, event recaps, and personal musings that are directly on the pulse of this community.



What sparked your need to create Rosemary's Pixie and how has it evolved over time?

In 2012, I was going through a rough time with work and my personal life and needed to create an outlet for myself.  I had stopped doing makeup because I was disillusioned by the whole industry and wanted to get back to my first loves of writing and horror, so I created a blog to get my horror ya-ya's out.  I’m not sure what the future of the blog is, but above all I want to keep it smart and thought-provoking but fun, and make sure it never becomes a chore for me.

Who's responsible for the sexy illustration in your Rosemary's Pixie banner?

I have always been obsessed with Mia Farrow’s iconic pixie cut and finally decided to cut my hair super short a year before I started the blog.  I wanted to celebrate my decision, and a friend nicknamed me “Pixie” after the cut, so the idea grew from there.  I have also always wanted a Black pin-up girl tattoo.  I have a large back piece tattoo that I want to add to when I can afford it, but it’s mostly florals and the pin-up didn’t quite go with my theme, so I finally got a chance to get her when I came up with the name for my blog.  

 A former makeup colleague, Lauren Furlonger, who is an amazing graphic artist, came up with the design.  My guidelines for Lauren were make her look a little like me (I’m such a narcissist!) with a pixie cut and pixie wings.  Lauren nailed it and I’m actually thinking of updating her because I have scrapped my contact lenses and love my glasses so much that I think the pixie needs a pair too!

Did you come of age feeling isolated in any way for your love of the horror genre, especially in regards to being Black and female? If so, what advice would you extend to yourself back then now and offer to any other young, Black girls currently traipsing horror conventions?

That’s an interesting question because in general, I was isolated due to my strict Catholic upbringing and living in a mostly white neighborhood. I considered myself an outsider growing up, but my mother was a huge influence on my love for horror. She was very superstitious and fascinated with all things morbid, telling my sisters and I weird ghost stories from the old country and watched late night horror movies.  I also have very close family friends that I grew up with, also Black and female, and we all loved horror as kids so it was pretty constant and normal for me to relate everything to horror. 

I never really thought about being Black and female back then because I never fit in even with other Black kids, so I just dealt with being “different” in a more general sense.  In the last say, 10 years, it’s become really important for me to make myself heard. I lived on the sidelines for a long, long time, trying not to be noticed because I was raised to be seen and not heard, and that is a terrible thing to do to yourself.  

I would tell my younger self to continue to write even though tenured, asshole professors ridiculed your abilities, stand up for yourself and take up space because as Black women, we need to be taken seriously for our ideas and intelligence.  For all the burgeoning Black female horror fans, I say go to as many cons, events and screenings as you can, talk to as many people who will listen, never apologize for who you are and what you like, and create a community of support for one another.  The more we represent ourselves and show our knowledge of horror, the more people will get used to the idea that we create and crave horror!

Discussing a singular favorite horror film is often very difficult and nearly impossible for me. You seem to be firm on the fact that Rosemary's Baby (1968) is a film you place above all the rest in the genre. What I'm always interested in hearing from horror fans is what is it about a particular film that makes them easily give the title 'favorite' to? How has Rosemary's Baby affected you personally? What about the storytelling, characters, and technical execution that has attached itself to your sense of memory so vividly? Has your ideas about the film evolved in any way from the first time you saw it up to today with multiple viewings?

For me Rosemary’s Baby has a weird, deep significance because it was set in New York at a time when my family was living there, and when I first saw the movie, I felt like I was experiencing the city that my family saw. My father was an artist and photographer, and I have a few photo albums of New York in the late 60’s. There is one picture of my mother who is pregnant with me, standing in front of a building with my sisters as they play with a little cat.  I make a weird connection with that picture and the film, maybe because she was pregnant like Rosemary, who knows! A romantic notion, yes, but it is somehow seared into my memory for good.

I also relate to the character of Rosemary Woodhouse. She was a people pleaser, wanting to fit in; trusting in others and what they thought instead of herself.  To me, this story is about women pleasing others to fit in and sacrificing instinct.  Even though I want a different ending for Rosemary, I don’t see her as weak, because she eventually finds her courage.  It is a huge lesson in trusting your instincts and doing what makes you happy in a larger sense.

There is also a mythology with the film that has stood the test of time.  It is probably one of the few films that followed the book so closely.  Director Roman Polanski was said to be obsessive about staying true to the novel, and I love that his meticulous attention to detail honored Levin’s story.  The tension, the sophisticated simplicity of the filmmaking, the incredible performances and the scoring all create a beautifully paranoia-inducing film.  I read that Levin suffered some regret at the popularity the book and film brought to the subject of the supernatural, which is a shame because that’s the whole point!  I get a certain forbidden glee with the knowledge that the devil lives at the Bramford, and I celebrate the story because at the very least, it is well-crafted horror that has stood the test of time and I can watch the film from beginning to end and still get chills every time.

Recall a horror celebrity encounter that eternally makes you recollect with joy. 

Oh boy!  Most recently, it was Stephen McHattie. If you read my blog, you know how much I love this Canadian actor who is literally in everything!  He was attending a screening of Ejecta to support his industry friends. I usually sit at the back of the theatre, and noticed him walk in partway through the film.  After missing out on meeting him a couple of times, I was determined to at least say hello.  I can be a big chicken, and I also don’t want to be disappointed by a bad experience with celebrities, because we know how that can go down sometimes, but I had heard he is a nice man.   

When he left the Q & A after the film, I followed him out. He was just wandering in the empty theatre hallway, so I casually approached him and we had a nice chat. I told him about my “love letter” to him and he liked the name of my blog--he starred in the made for TV sequel of Rosemary’s Baby in the 70’s.  He was really nice, and I’m glad I took a chance, but I do regret not taking a picture with him!  

Pixie & Steve Niles
Steve Niles was also really, really sweet and endured my giddy fan babble.  I’ve also met Henry Winkler (I know this is random!) and asked him why the Fonz never had a Black girlfriend on Happy Days if he was such a rebel.  I didn’t get much of an answer, but he was a huge flirt, giving my sister, my friend and I each a kiss on the cheek.  And just to let the universe know, my next celebrity meeting wish would be Keanu Reeves, although I think I just might squeak, barf and faint if I did meet him, so…

I love that you've recently on your blog began to discourse on issues that lean towards racial stereotypes/problematic racial depictions in some of the more recent film screenings you've attended at genre/horror events. Judging from the positive reception of some of the films you've found racially insensitive and downright offensive, do you feel there's a lack of critical understanding or even open-mindedness amongst certain filmmakers when they're crafting stories and characters that are non-white? 

Here in Canada, some people want to hang on to the Utopian dream that there is no discrimination, and people of colour are just whining about yet another issue. I love Canada, and I would like to be represented properly, plain and simple. Just by omitting, ignoring and excluding people of colour and their narratives is discrimination. Denying that racial exclusion happens is discriminatory. While we do have a large European and British heritage here, the ethnic landscape has quickly changed with immigration.   

As a result, I think some filmmakers are behind on, or maybe resent, who their audiences are and go for what is easy and what is deemed bankable by perpetuating racial stereotypes as the only form of acknowledgment. It is a huge oversight on their part to assume that there in only one demographic to create for and it is just lazy. To also assume that a Black or a visible minority protagonist will not be marketable is so played out it hurts. I wish they would stop being so spineless and do something about it, like take a cue from TV where there is a growing number of diverse roles for people of color, or stand up to the production companies.  Ultimately, as it has always been, we, as people and fans of colour, have to do it ourselves by showing up, writing about exclusion and making a stink until they get it.

What are some of the stand-out differences between Canadian horror films versus American horror films? If any. 

I’m not sure I can nail down the differences, but for some reason, I can usually tell if a film is Canadian. Canadian government funding stipulates that a certain amount of Canadian content be present, but it could also be the way the light hits us here up north, or just that there is a different aesthetic, but it’s almost an innate sense.  

A lot of Canadian films have this delicious indie feel to them, probably because the funding can be hard to come by, but indie is becoming a bigger draw than big budget.  I do notice it is becoming harder to tell the difference because I think we borrow from each other to create a more North American feel. For instance, we have had greats like Bob Clark and David Cronenberg setting the standard for the slasher and body horror film that has carried over to America.  Now, with directors like Tricia Lee, the Soska Twins and Karen Lam, there is a greatly needed female perspective; and with writer Tony Burgess who is so completely unique and unashamedly bizarre, we have some unique voices in Canadian horror that Americans really embrace.

How would you describe the Toronto horror film scene/community?

I think the horror scene here is very healthy but severely underfunded.  From what I’ve gathered at the festivals I’ve attended, most of the productions are independent, and most of the filmmakers have to rely on their own money, some film grants from the government, fundraising campaigns, and crews that work on a voluntary basis. I think as a result of this, it’s a tight-knit community and filmmakers get a ton of support from each other and fans. Along with TIFF Midnight Madness, there are also two major film festivals here: The Toronto After Dark and Blood in the Snow Festivals that work really hard at showcasing independent horror films.  It’s great for fans to see films that have made a splash at international festivals like The Babadook alongside hometown shorts and feature films where these filmmakers get a chance to show their talents and build a following that may lead to bigger opportunities.


The fans are extremely knowledgeable and serious about horror here, so it’s always fun to strike up conversations at festivals.  I’ve met some really great people that way, including directors and cast members, but I’ve also met dudes that feel the need to school me on horror, which makes me laugh.  Chances are I’m about 15 years older than them, and although I don’t need to justify myself to anyone, they should know I’ve been reared on a healthy diet of horror since forever.  In that same vein, the horror scene can be a bit of a bro-mance, but there are a lot of women producers, directors and fans that are growing in numbers and that makes me happy.  I want to see more bloodthirsty women creating horror and at horror events!

I hear you're a makeup artist. How did that passion develop and if you had the money and resources, what is your vision for your talents in this arena?

I had always liked playing with makeup and after the death of my mother, I figured I should do something I enjoyed, since my university degree wasn’t doing me any favours. I decided to get my makeup artist certificate and worked freelance and at counters for around 15 years. I’ve taken a step back for the last few years because the market is saturated with artists, and I’d much rather buy makeup now than use it on clients, but I still do the occasional photo shoot with select photographers. If I had the money, I would create an organic skin care line and maybe go back and get some formal special effects training or art/CGI classes to become a monster maker extraordinaire, like my TV crush Neville Page. 

Anything else horror-related you're into at the moment and would like to share with the universe? What's a high recommend on your list?

Aside from my constant search for mind-blowing horror, I am collecting graphic novels to do some serious binge reading. I’ve got piles of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, The Strain and The October Faction, as well as a 5 part series of Millennium which I’m excited about. It crosses the Frank Black character with the X-Files. I loved both shows, so I can’t wait for the other issues! 


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